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The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Finale At Sonoma Was All Red, White, & Blue

First year driver for the four car Team Penske Racing, Josef Newgarden (lower right), following race winner and 2016 VICS champion Simon Pagenaud, takes the checkered flag to secure his first VICS championship in front of an enthusiastic yet sparse crowd, with television camera sweeping from the Start/Finish podium.  Simon Pagenaud repeats as the winner of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and P2 in the 2017 championship. Roger Penske stands in the Hitachi Team Penske box (lower left) as he communicates to his driver of 18 years, Helio Castroneves, who finishes at P5 - P4 in the 2017 VICS championship. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Finale At Sonoma Was All Red, White, & Blue

Yes, the pre-race that was book-ended by Americans, ended in a way some expected but never accounted for.

Many who wished for more Americana touchstones in the North American premiere professional open-wheel motorsports series had something happen that oddly reinforced their desires.

A driver who waves the Red, White, & Blue of his native country flag ... but the catch here is, it happens to be the flag of last year's GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma and Verizon IndyCar Series champion, Simon Pagenaud. Yep! The tri-color of France (red, white, and blue).

Simon Pagenaud was wheeled into the Verizon IndyCar Victory Lane where he raises his arms in victorious celebration when climbing out of his car. He repeats as the winning driver of the final race of the season, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

Penske Racing teammates congratulate each other during the NBCSN interview of Simon Pagenaud by Jon Beekhuis. Josef Newgarden, who had just secured the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship, couldn't wait until after the interview, busted in between Beekhuis and Pagenaud, and gave  Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, one of the biggest victory hugs during this hotly contested 2017 season. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

The race was conducted without one YELLOW Flag that would have changed up everyone's strategy. Very unusual. A very cleanly run and intense race.

Simon Pagenaud qualified in P3, so in order to win the race and have a shot at repeating as champion, he needed to get by teammates Will Power at P2 and track record holding Josef Newgarden sitting on the pole position. To repeat as Verizon IndyCar Series champion, the job was that he needed to win and have both Newgarden and Dixon finish at P4 or worse.

The Red, White, & Blue was clearly on display during pre-race ceremonies. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

This excerpted and edited from the post race Verizon IndyCar press conferences at Sonoma Raceway -

IndyCar Media Conference - Sunday September 17, 2017 - FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Simon Pagenaud - Roger Penske - Tim Cindric

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We are joined in the press conference room by race winner Simon Pagenaud, who literally did just about everything you could do today except maybe lead the most laps. I don't know that you got that part accomplished but you did just about everything else you could do and it just came up short for the championship. So is it bittersweet?

SIMON PAGENAUD: You know, at the end of the day, I think what is important to me is to perform at your best in those conditions. I think to me, the final champion is someone that can bring his A game or extra A game on a given time. I thought we did just that today as a team, myself as a driver, my engineer, my strategist, my guys, my crew in the pit stops. I think we did just that.

And to me, when I look at Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and all these guys that really -- obviously those guys are Formula 1 drivers, but think about some IndyCar drivers, Franchitti, these guys, when you think about these guys that have really marked the sport, the sport in general, Motorsports, I think today was one of those days for us.

It was very special to me. Of course we're not champions, we came up short by 13 points after a whole season. Am I satisfied? No, because I want to win, but we gave everything we had.

For me to finish 13 points behind in a season where we had a lot of downs, not as many ups compared to last year, I think it's quite impressive. Very happy with that.

Josef Newgarden leads the field down into the final hairpin Turn 11 before the waving of the GREEN Flag to start the race. Here, the first two rows of the side-by-side line up are Penske Racing Dallara Chevrolets. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

THE MODERATOR: I don't know if these were the most difficult 85 laps of your career, but they were pretty intense from start to finish given that you were on an all-go strategy.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes. Last night my engineer texted me when I was at the Verizon dinner, and he said, We're going to do four stops. I'm like, what? Four stops never worked here; why would we do four stops? He said, well, if there's a yellow, that's the best way we can win the championship. I'm like, all right, that makes sense, but it's a long shot. If it doesn't work out, we're going to end up fifth or sixth in the championship, it's not going to look too good. But I was in a very attacking mode, attacking mood this weekend, and I thought, hey, why not, let's try. And he convinced me.

Then, you know, it was -- I was really surprised on the second stint how strong we were compared to everybody. We were able to pass a lot of cars and made some very aggressive passes, and it was starting to really work.

When I built a gap on Josef, 10 seconds, and then 11 and then 12, I was like, ooh, I think we have a chance. So then I thought, if we keep putting pressure, maybe something would happen. The strategy worked out really, really well. It was impressive. The car was just phenomenal all day. Grueling, tiring, and I'm exhausted right now. That's the most I've ever pushed in an IndyCar race.

THE MODERATOR: I think that was lap 65 when you came out in front of Josef. Talk about that one, how you stayed in front of him.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it was tough, especially on the black tires. I was thinking about it before the pit stop. I was like, man, I'm going to come out on blacks and he's going on reds. It's going to be close. The in lap the tires were really starting to get used up and starting to have a lot of oversteer out of 7, was using some Push-to-Pass, and the rear end was really coming around a lot, and I was like, man, I don't know if it's going to be enough. Then when we did it, I was like, okay, now I've got to really be smart about how I'm going to handle this, so I came out of the pit as hard as I could, took all the risks in the world, and tires came up really quick because I was so aggressive.

After Turn 7, I knew I could keep it, so then -- the nice thing is today I could be on the aggressive side and Josef had to be a little bit more on the defensive side, so I also took advantage of that.

Q. Racers are going to race, but on that lap 65, were you surprised how fierce Josef was, because basically he finishes behind you, he wins the title?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yes, I was. When I blocked Turn 7 and I saw him diving, I'm like, dude, be careful. Especially at the time, the thing is if he has a problem, I'm leading the race, I'm champion, so at the time we're racing, obviously I knew, I could see on the sign Dixon was fifth, so I knew we couldn't do anything stupid for the championship. But it was more comfortable for me than it was for him, I'm assuming, in my position. Yeah, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the fight. It was a good fight. I thought that my out lap was outstanding for sure.

Q. I wanted you to address the consistency that you've had not only with the team, it's a great team, obviously, but you were on the track for every lap this season. The only driver to do that. And you were also coming off the championship and right in contention right until the very end, which the champion hasn't always done in recent years. Talk about how you feel about those accomplishments.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, I'm very proud tonight. I'm very proud. I'm also superstitious, so 13 points behind is probably a good thing for next year. I like that number, so we'll see. But I'm very proud of my guys. Mechanically we had zero problems this year, no mechanical issues. Chevy has been incredible in terms of reliability. Also my team, we never had an issue during the race, barely any -- I don't think we had any problems in the pits at all. I didn't make any stupid mistakes, didn't break a wing, didn't have any contact at any point. So we finished every single lap of the season, which I don't know the stats, but that's insane, I think, and I'm very, very proud of that.

That's kind of my trait as a driver is I don't go off track very often, and I think this season maybe we didn't have the outright pace at every race, but at least we had consistency, and we see it pays off.

Q. Considering how you finished just 13 points behind Josef in the championship, if you look back at Gateway now, do you consider that as the crucial turning point of the title battle?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, my first start was before the podium was actually Texas when I feel like I could have won the race, but I just sat behind Will and tried to work as a team and tried to finish the race together as the race was getting crazy. So it was a smart drive, but maybe I should have been more aggressive to collect more points. That's really my first thought.

Then Gateway, that's racing. You know, Josef managed to get it done. I don't know what it is I could have done in that situation, so you can't -- I mean, I just can't go back on that and be disappointed. I think I did the best I could, the best I could pretty much all season. I don't have any regrets, no.

Q. You and Josef have had an interesting relationship; you were both with another manufacturer, you both came to Team Penske, now you've both won championships for Team Penske. Did his arrival on the team change how you raced this year or did you have a different dynamic between yourselves this year?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, the first thing when a new driver comes on is understand how he works and how to integrate him within the group. The group was very dynamic, it was Juan Pablo, Helio and Will, and now we had Josef coming on board. Completely different character than Montoya. Actually Josef is really -- he integrates himself really easily, and he's a really smart -- you guys say he's a kid, but he's really smart. It's quite impressive what he can be doing at 25.

It's been really easy. He's been bringing quite an interesting vision about what he likes, and congratulations to him.

"The Captain" Roger Penske, surveys & communicates with his pit crew as they go through Friday Sonoma track set-ups. Making adjustments and taking notes that make the Chevy Dallara just so, for Helio. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

THE MODERATOR: We're joined here by Mr. Penske and Mr. Cindric. Let's first just talk about Simon and the way he ran the race and how your guys worked together today.

ROGER PENSKE: I think what you didn't know is that probably two hours before the race, the drivers, we sat down, Tim and I sat down with the drivers and we talked about all the scenarios that could take place. You've been here before when there's a yellow that comes out that mixes up the field, and Simon put his hand up and said, I'll be the guy, I'll commit to come in on lap 10. And of course we take that for granted, and certainly it's lap 10 they came in, and I think that just shows you because we needed Will to be a wing man for the 2 car, for Josef, and for Helio, we had to deal with Dixon behind us. I think it was well thought out, and fortunately things went our way.

Simon came to the team, and first year he didn't maybe have the success he wanted, but he doubled down last year, and the number of wins, the number of poles, and you could see the speeded here this weekend. To me, we talk about the different team members and the drivers, I think each one of them pushes each other, and with Josef coming on board, he's aggressive, but also I think he learned a lot from Simon and Helio and certainly from Will, and I think that was the stack of information that we keep getting every weekend.

There's not a pit time we come in the pits that Helio doesn't ask what are the other guys doing, where are they braking, where are they getting back on the gas. I know Simon is the same way. So having the luxury to have the four drivers and the way we communicate makes a big difference, and as I always say, I don't have a favorite driver. Look at it today, it would have been nice to see Josef win the race, but quite honestly this is the perfect ending to a great season and a new sponsor, someone that we wanted to be in the sport for a long time, and I know Simon was this close.

To me, he knows as we know only one guy can win the championship and win the race, and today we had three people up front there on the podium. You think about the last race, the championship, I'd have to say that Tim and the team have done a terrific job.

THE MODERATOR: You've had three champions, three different drivers in the last four years, and this continues it, and the way Simon presented himself as a champion over the last year.

TIM CINDRIC: Yeah, without a doubt. Simon, he showed everybody the way last year, and these guys, having four of them that are all competing for the win, some days we have to talk about it afterwards, all of us, not just Simon, all of us. So yeah, there was a lot at stake today, a lot can go right, a lot can go wrong, but what I'm proud of is the team that we have at the end of the day. We've been here and been on the other end of it, and I think that today fortunately it was a green race because that helped us figure out where we needed to be and how we needed to be there, but what I didn't want is Simon and Josef fighting each other too hard and maybe got a little too close there. But for us the perfect scenario played out to where Simon could win the race and finish second in the championship and Josef get what he deserved there.

Q. What is it that you liked most about being champion, and what are you going to miss about not being champion?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I mean, I want to win. I don't want to be second. But you know, it's IndyCar racing. It's very difficult to repeat because the competition is so fierce. But you know, I think I'm very proud of how we conducted ourselves this year. I think Team Penske did a tremendous job. Chevrolet, as well. Overall, the best man won, and Josef did.

On the whole season, he was the strongest. I miss being the strongest, and I will come back next year, and I'm going to try to be the best. I think that's competition. You know, that's how it goes.

Q. Simon, what would you list as your number one accomplishment of this season? Is there any particular high moment?
SIMON PAGENAUD: This weekend, yes. I think for me, like I said earlier, when you have to be on top of your game in a very pressured moment, those are my favorite times, favorite moments. Being able to accomplish that for me is a very special thing, so I'm very proud of that, very proud of my team in general, no mistakes, perfect decisions. It was a flawless weekend for us. Just very proud that the whole team did such a good job, and also talking with my team, but also the whole organization, when you look at it, it was a flawless operation today.

You know, I think when you walk away from here, it's just what you take away and what you enjoy the most.
Q. You missed Turn 9 a couple times; what was going on there?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Spectacle, yeah. I was trying to make it like exciting for the fans and you, as well. Nothing really. I miss that driving, so I thought it would be fun.
Q. You've won back-to-back here at Sonoma, and I know it's a challenging race course. Tell me about what your strengths are and how you're able to master some of the challenges this track throws at you.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think I've got a fantastic car. That really helps. Yeah, Team Penske has been so strong here for many years. I think maybe it's the philosophy of our setups in general, but also just pushing each other as drivers to find the limits and work on details. I think that's key. Today was my strategist and the decision that we made as a team to have me do four stops, and I'm in that position because I think it paid off today because I was comfortable in the race car and I could go really hard on long stints. Those are my answers.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Simon.

HUM Sponsored Josef Newgarden communicates what he needs on setting up during Friday Practice. He was able to make it into the Firestone Fast Six in Knockout Qualifying then go on to set a new track record capturing the Verizon P1 Pole Award and add one point in his championship points lead. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

And this excerpted & edited from post race Verizon IndyCar press conferences at Sonoma Raceway -

IndyCar Media Conference - Sunday September 17, 2017 - FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Josef Newgarden

THE MODERATOR: From driving up the road Nashville to Indianapolis to a go-kart track to Europe to the Mazda Road to Indy to Team Penske, stops at Sarah's team, Ed's team, here you are. Welcome, IndyCar champion.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It's a crazy journey. Forgive me if my words aren't so great right now. I feel like I've talked too much after this. I got definitely emotional with the whole -- just the whole ceremony process and seeing everyone there and how happy everyone else was. It's taken a lot of people to get to this point, clearly and obviously. This started a long time ago with just my parents, and they're the biggest reason that I've been able to do this. They've put everything on the line for me to make sure I had an opportunity to do this, and that's where it starts, and then it kind of falls into line with everyone else.

Everyone else, there's a long list of people that have made it happen along the way, from karts to going to Europe to coming back and to getting an IndyCar opportunity and now being here with Team Penske. It's a crazy journey. It's so cool to be able to do this, though. I'm so proud of everyone involved and everyone at Team Penske and what we were able to put together today as a group.

Red, White, & Blue! The Verizon IndyCar Series Champion for 2017 emerges. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

THE MODERATOR: Everyone that's come in here since the race was over mentioned about being an American champion, and you put the flag around you up there. I think you were a little surprised by that, didn't really know how to take it, felt like a boxer. But it's important, and you know it is.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, I mean, obviously for me, I've always preached that it's great that we have the best of the best in the Verizon IndyCar Series. We don't want a championship filled with just American drivers, but it's important to have the best of America in it. You know, and I think the Mazda Road to Indy has come such a long way, and the farming system seems to be working again.

I feel like team owners and people within IndyCar are looking to the youth in America, which is a great thing. I think there's more guys that are capable that are coming up to help fly the flag in this series. But as I said, the best thing is we have people from all around the world that are the best at what they do, and we've got to continue to have that. We have to have the best from Europe and from anywhere overseas because if it's just Americans running it wouldn't mean anything. But certainly having successful Americans is a big deal, too.

Q. Just thinking back to 2012 when you strapped into the car driving for Sarah Fisher, did you ever think that you would be a Team Penske driver, let alone a champion in your first year with them?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Hard to tell. I didn't know what was going to happen. You work so hard just to get an opportunity on the professional stage, and then for it to take a turn to this point, I think you work so hard to just get to the IndyCar level that you don't really think about anything beyond that. You don't think about, well, what's the maximum at the IndyCar level you could get to.

So not really. I mean, I just always dreamed and hoped that I could have a very successful career and be good at this, but you never know if it's going to work out.

And I think the more years I drove in IndyCar, the more I thought I would never get hired by a team like Team Penske. I never thought that would really happen. It seemed like those guys didn't want me a part of their team, which was fine with me in some degree because I've worked with a lot of great groups before and we've had a lot of success, but having been a part of Team Penske for a year now, I can't tell you how amazing they are as a group. I'm so honored to drive for Roger and Tim and the entire team and all our partners. They're the best of the best. I mean, they really are. I can see why, having been a part of it. They're something special.

Q. The lap 63, 65 battle where the two of you came -- where you and Simon met after the pit stop and you raced him really hard, and at one point Tim Cindric came over the radio and said, "championship." What was it that you wanted to finish ahead of him so bad?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: It was my instinct. My instinct when I saw him was I'm going to beat him, and that's just my -- honestly that's my natural instinct inside the car is just to beat whoever is in front of me. That's what I felt like. I was on reds, he was out of the pits, he was like weak prey in front of me, so I'm going to get him. But I also tried to measure it the way I was doing it. I didn't want to do something silly.

And then obviously the more that that lap progressed, Tim was very vocal and coaching me through it and telling me, this is the situation. You know, it made a lot of sense in my mind when he was over the radio, so I've got to give a lot of credit to Tim for keeping me in check and making sure that I was thinking correctly this whole weekend and certainly in that moment.

I think it's fitting, it's great for us that another car won the race, part of our team, so you've got a team car winning the race, you've got a team car winning the championship. We're all really winning this weekend. It takes a group to make this happen, and it's taken all four of these teams to bring a championship together, so it's a group effort.

THE MODERATOR: How much time did you give to the crash at Watkins Glen? It had to just be a little bit unnerving.

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: You know, I was just pissed. I was pissed at myself for making a mistake. I always get pissed when I make a mistake. Like Texas this year, I'm just furious. You don't want to be around me for 24 to 48 hours. My girlfriend knows it's not a good time. I try and be polite, but once I get home, you don't want to be around me. And that was kind of the case with Watkins Glen. But that's where it stopped. I was just mad at myself for my mistake and any time I do that I get mad about it. But I moved on pretty quickly.

The way I always looked at the championship was it was going to come down to Sonoma, and I don't know if it's a good way or bad way to view it but it's the way I viewed it and the way I was playing it was that Watkins didn't matter. I think everyone was telling me, you have a big point lead so you need to just protect that, finish wherever you can at Watkins Glen. I kind of thought, it doesn't really matter, why don't we just try and make more points because it's going to come down to Sonoma regardless, so if we have a wreck you're still going to have to fight for it here.

Looking back on it, I feel like that's kind of a mistake. I think I'd play it differently now after what happened at Watkins Glen, but at the end of the day, it did come down to this race, and we needed to execute, and we had the team to do it when we needed it.

Q. All year long IndyCar has been promoting next, and do you see this as a pivot point in the series in that it's now your time, it's now Alexander Rossi's time, it's now drivers in their mid to late 20s' time to begin to be big time stars, champions, Indy 500 winners? That this is going to be the generation we're going to sit and watch for the next 15, 20 years be stars in this sport?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know the answer fully. I mean, I hope that I'll be around for a long time. I'd love that. I'd love to have a long successful career like any racer at this level would. Everyone wants that as a driver. You want to be around for a long time and have a lot of success. So I hope so. I mean, I think it's going to be a natural thing. I think eventually the champions of the past are going to -- they're going to eventually be done with their careers. That's just a natural process.

You know, the youth that is coming up, I do believe you're going to hopefully see for a long time, and I think there's a lot of bright spots within the Mazda Road to Indy and some of the guys that are coming over from overseas that are young. So I think there's a lot of talent in the world that are yet to make their mark in IndyCar Series, and you're going to see that for years to come. Hopefully that includes me, too, but there's no telling what the future holds.

Q. You did a lot of silly promotional things a few years ago. You sat in the stands and had people not know who you were. We played with wind-up guitars yesterday in your press thing.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Yeah, that was fun.

Q. You've done a lot of that kind of stuff, and that's brought you to this stage and it's also brought you a lot of fans along the way. You're no longer the anonymous guy. How does that feel to not only have established yourself but made yourself a champion?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I mean, honestly for me it's just always been about success on the racetrack. Whether that's a selfish answer or not, that's always been the most important thing to me. It's what I love. I feel committed to doing it with the people around me, and that's everyone, whether it's people that have helped put me in the car or it's the people that I get to work with every week. You feel the passion from the people that you work with. I feel it from everyone in the Team Penske shop. You feel it every weekend from the mechanics that you're getting to work with.

We all want to win, so I kind of -- I've always prioritized that. The fun stuff that I've been able to do along the way and what that's done for me is -- has been enjoyable at times, it really has. I've enjoyed that part of it, and I think it's great for our fans that they enjoy it and they want to see it more, and I feel like IndyCar has kind of pushed the boundaries more than other sports in a lot of ways sooner than other sports, too, and involving ourselves with the fans and making ourselves more just human and normal to people instead of just sports idols. I think that's a great thing. Yeah, I appreciate that. I think it's great for our fans, but whether it's a selfish answer or not, like I said, the on-track product has really been the No. 1 thing to me, so getting to this point, it's a dream come true to be able to win a championship.

Q. Obviously there's been a lot of change this year. You moved to Charlotte, you moved teams, you had three teammates instead of one or one and a half. How did all those elements, how did you deal with those elements, adapt to them and kind of grow this year in what was maybe your biggest year of change?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I would say so. I would agree it's been my biggest year of change. It's been my biggest opportunity. I've had so much to -- I think live up to in that you have champions around you, you have guys pushing you every week that are making you get the most out of yourself and you have to match them. So it's given me the biggest opportunity to grow and to prove myself in that environment, and that's been fun. It's been really fun and challenging for me.

You know, having said that, I also had those opportunities in the past, as well. I feel like starting out as a one-car team and trying to figure things out myself was very beneficial to me. I think it's given me all my strength that I have in racing is that when I first started, you know what, it wasn't the best situation. I loved driving for SFHR and they did so much for me, but I'll be honest it wasn't the easiest situation. We had our backs against the wall a lot of times. We were a brand new team, it was a brand new car. We were a one-car team, so it was hard to go through those times with no previous setups, no information, no data to look at, no real thought process. You just had to formulate it yourself. And I think all those moments prepared me to get to this point with Team Penske and being able to sort it out with the best of the best.

You know, I guess what I'd like to express is extreme gratitude to everyone that's helped me up to this point but also my teammates this year because they've really been fantastic to work with, every single one of them. I know people think we're lying when we talk so goody-goody about each other, but we have a great working relationship, all four of us did, and it was an amazing season to learn and grow from those guys, and I can't thank them enough for what they've done for me.

Q. If you're this competitive, were you just a little bit ticked off you didn't win the race?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, 100 percent. I'm not joking. I was kind of steaming inside the car, but then I thought, you know, the race win, as much as it'll piss me off that we lost the race, because it's a tough race, okay, you guys don't understand, this is probably the most grueling race you'll run every year just because of the tire degradation and the way this track drives, it is the most difficult race that you will put together, physically, mentally, it's draining. So when you feel like you've done everything to win the race and you don't win it, it's very annoying as a racer. So I hated that.

But I also just thought about the big picture, and you guys know Tim was coaching me through that thinking about it, and it's a team effort, so I had to be smart about it, and that gave me a lot more gratification, I think, than just losing the race.
White smoke coming from the bottom of Team Penske No. 3 Chevy Dallara of Helio Castroneves. Even during the last laps of an 85 lap race, the compression caused through the combination of downforce and the elevation change experienced in Turn 1 at Sonoma Raceway causes a whiff of smoke from rub blocks on the bottom of the racing chassis. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017) 

Q. From Edmund Jenks - The EDJE - At this moment you are the oldest 25 years old you are going to be ... You're associating with Helio Castroneves and Will Power and other older drivers. Where do you see yourself in say another 10 or even 20 years from now?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I don't know. I mean, it's important not to get too ahead of yourself. I think we've got to be really proud of what we did this year. We've got to enjoy it. You have to -- someone reminded me that you have to take time to enjoy these moments because it doesn't mean anything if you don't take the time to enjoy it and appreciate it.

We're going to do that for sure. But what the future holds, I don't think we can get ahead of ourselves. It takes a lot of work to do what we did this year, and I hope we're able to do it many, many times over. But it doesn't always work out that way, so we've got to be on our toes, make sure we're -- I think aggressive but cautious at the same time, and I hope 10, 20 years down the road we've got many more championships and hopefully some Indy 500s along the way, too.

Q. When during the race did you realize, you said, I've got it?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: The final stint. Up to that point I was waiting for whatever was going to go wrong, and the final stint after I settled in with Pagenaud, I thought, you know, we've done everything we needed to do to be in position, and there's not a lot that can tilt it right now. Up until that point, I was like, man, what's going to happen. It's IndyCar racing, there's always something that can shift the platform and move you off your position, and when we were in that final stint, we had our final stop, we were fueled to the finished, I knew my fuel code that I had to hit. It was a big number, but I knew we could hit it every lap. I was like, okay, if we do our job here, we can make it happen, so probably 15 to go was when I started to feel more confident that we had what we needed.

It felt good, but I kept telling myself if it was 10 laps to go, I kept telling myself there was 15 laps to go. I just was playing it on the aggressive side because I didn't want to play it too safe. I just tried to make it seem longer than it was going to be.

Q. You got kind of choked up there at the end when you were talking about your folks helping you and so forth, and we've had an awful lot of IndyCar drivers and NASCAR and a lot of really good drivers come out of kart. Can you tell me how you got started and how your parents helped you and what made you think that was what you wanted to do once you were involved in karting and how did it go from there? Where did you start and what class?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I come from great parents to start with. I've got great, great people that guide me in life. I think me and my two sisters did. So that makes a world of a difference with whatever you're choosing to do in the world.

You know, what I'm getting at is we were given every opportunity that they could put in front of us. They wanted to help us pursue whatever we wanted. I played baseball and basketball when I was a kid. My dad, he selfishly wanted me to be a baseball player professionally in my life. He hoped that I'd become a New York Yankees player one day. I liked playing baseball like that, I liked basketball, too, but I always wanted a go-kart. I was like, Dad, please can we get a go-kart, and it didn't happen until I was 13. That's when he kind of finally caved.

My dad was always a car guy. He was always into racing. I was always exposed to it on TV. When we finally made a decision to go do that, you know, it's difficult for families to do. People ask me all the time, how do you get in racing, and it costs money. You've got to find someone to help you out, whether it's friends or families or if you somehow find a sponsor, you somehow convince someone to sponsor you. You've got to get the money from somewhere.

We had certainly a better situation than many, but not a straight-cut situation to just make it professionally in race cars. It was a long road and very difficult to go through. So they put everything on the line. They gave me everything they had. It got me to a certain point, and then others had to pitch in and make it happen. I started in, like I said, go-karts when I was 13, I raced at New Castle Motorsports Park right in New Castle, Indiana. It was a track built by Mark Dismore, who's an ex-IndyCar guy, and yeah, big karting family, and he taught me a lot about what I know today, and really the rest is history. I started there and I kept moving up the levels and had a lot of people help us along the way and put everything on the line for us to get to here.
Q. Being champion comes with responsibilities; how excited are you for that to go out and be the face of IndyCar? You're going to be on the front of the program, be on the front of the media guide. Is that starting to sink in yet?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No. Look, I'll carry the flag happily. I love the IndyCar Series. I think it's got the whole world in front of it. It can go so many good ways. I'll do the best that I can to help spread the word and show people how great this sport is. I think people have been catching on to be honest with you over the last couple years. They're coming back to the sport. Anyone that we lost over the last 20 years, I think they've been coming back over the last five or six seasons, and we've got to make sure that we keep doing that. It's not one big step, it's going to be little steps at a time, and I think in the next five years hopefully we can be in an amazing place. I think we're in a good place right now, but we want to be in an amazing place. I'll do my best to carry that flag and help everyone in the Verizon IndyCar Series keep going up.

Zach Veach (left) moves from color commentary on radio broadcasts and driving the 2-Seater Dallara Indy Racing Experience fan engagement employee to a three-year full time Verizon IndyCar Series driver. Zach stands here with the CEO of Group One Thousand One Dan Towriss and Andretti Autosport team chief Michael Andretti. Image Credit: Ken Manfred (2017)

Looking forward to 2018, we also had the first face-to-face chance to hear about and talk with Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti, Group One Thousand One CEO, Dan Towriss, and Mazda Road To Indy ladder series driver Zach Veach on the multi-year contract to have Zach fill the seat vacated by Indy500 winner Takuma Sato (who will return to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing next season) giving Andretti Autosport a four-car team of American born drivers.

Zach will be joining veteran and Verizon IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, sophomore and Indy500 winner Alexander Rossi, and third generation 200 consecutive race starter Marco Andretti.

To the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, we bid adieu ... all in a flag waving flurry of ...

... RED ... WHITE ... & BLUE!

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Verizon IndyCar Series, GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Penske Racing, Zach Veach, Andretti Autosport, Group One Thousand One CEO, Dan Towriss, American, The EDJE


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